Alex Smoke: Bloc07 set
First breaking through with releases on Glasgow’s little-known Savalas Underground Developments imprint in 2002, Alex Smoke has since cemented his place as one of the most genuinely talented electronic producers to emerged from Glasgow’s rich scene.
Whether it’s pulling modern techno/minimalism to its furthest limits on his early dancefloor releases for Slam’s Soma or the fractured, experimental soundscapes of his more recent artist album ‘Lux’ the Hum+Haw label he runs with Jim Hutchinson, Smoke’s production is always crafted with a detailed perfectionism and (admittedly dark) emotion that eludes so many of his contemporaries.
Recorded in the Tec:Bloc arena, his live set from Bloc 2007 is a dark masterpiece through the more challenging edges of techno, but while Smoke’s music is often moody, intense and borderline suicidal, his chat proved cheerily frank and comically incisive.
Hi Alex, thanks for chatting, first of all what have you been working on lately? Did you take some downtime from the studio after the release of ‘Lux’ or did you get straight back on it?
Nae bother. Actually ‘Lux’ was delayed by nearly two years due to various reasons out of my control, so by the time it came out I was already well into the next thing. To be honest, I rarely stop anyway as if i did I’d be just sitting around in my pants, as opposed to sitting around working in my pants. Next things are a semi-classical, semi-electronic score for F.W.Murnau’s film of Faust which I’m recording in December, a sample pack that just came out, and a new album which is well on the way.
Rather than focussing on fitting in with current trends or fashions, you’ve always carved your own sound. Do you think the scene can get too easily distracted by hype genres and buzz words?
It’s a double-edged sword really, as on the one hand it can lead to an over-focus on one sound and encourage a bunch of boring copies, which all get lauded as the next big thing, but on the other hand the hype creates excitement around the scene and gets the more creative people thinking in new ways. It won’t change so you have to take the best from it and maintain your own direction.
What five words best describe your own sound?
Sometimes good, sometimes bad. miserable.
Are there any plans to re-engage your hip-hop side project Fool?
I have learnt so much since I first started that project, so there is a temptation to revisit it and do it better, but I’m not really in the hip-hop mindset right now so it will have to bide it’s time I think.
You’ve always preferred to work alone, but is there any producer that you’d collaborate with in an ideal world?
I just don’t think I’m cut out for collaboration to be honest…. there are so many producers I admire and I’d love to see how they produce, but ultimately it’s a personal thing for me. And they’d also find out I actually just make everything using a PlayStation and MTV Music Generator.
What do you use to make your music? What does your studio set up consist of?
I’ve now got the studio setup I like and there’s really nothing I’m needing at all which is a nice feeling. I just have a Mac, an Elektron Monomachine, a Nord G2 Modular and a Capybara 320/Kyma system. My studio is so badly set up it’s a joke. My monitors are crap and sit on my decks table and I sit at the wall so the sound is bouncing everywhere…..amateur night.
As for software I use Logic and a few choice soft synths, as well as Max sometimes, although Kyma has kind of taken over there.
What’s in your home stereo at the moment?
A load of brilliant stuff….Actress ‘Splazsh’, James Blake, Tristan Perich ‘One Bit Symphony’, DJ Nate and a load of Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks.
What have you got coming out on your Hum+Haw imprint over the next few months?
There will be an EP of remixes of ‘Lux’ tracks fairly soon, and a compilation of unreleased material by our wider group of associates.
Which other current labels do you have the most respect for?
I really respect anyone keeping going and releasing good forward-thinking music…! It’s a fucking nightmare. I think Werk are great, and R&S, and I love all the rough, DIY stuff with cheap graphics like Horizontal Ground, Equalized and Wax.
Alex Smoke went swimming with Allan McGrath